. Parliament Calls for End to UK Military Aid to Colombia | London Progressive Journal
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Parliament Calls for End to UK Military Aid to Colombia

Fri 15th Aug 2008

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the British Parliament has called UK military aid to Colombia "inappropriate" and says that any future assistance to the Colombian military should be conditional on an improvement in the human rights situation. In a scathing attack on British policy the Committee also directly contradicts the UK Government position by saying that in fact the human rights situation in Colombia is not improving and that trade unionists continue to be targeted.

The new report, entitled "Foreign Affairs – Ninth Report", also criticises the lack of transparency surrounding UK military aid to Colombia and says that extra-judicial executions carried out by the Colombian military must not be ignored.

According to the Committee, "We conclude that the human rights situation in Colombia is serious and shows little sign of improvement. We further conclude that allegations of extra-judicial executions by the Colombian military, and the continued targeting of trade unionists, cannot be ignored. We therefore believe it is inappropriate for the Government to provide military aid to Colombia without any reference to human rights improvements."

The report goes on to say: "Noting recent moves by the US Congress to freeze some aid to Colombia on human rights grounds, we recommend that the Government should request the Colombian military to demonstrate measurable and verifiable human rights improvements in exchange for future assistance."

The new report, which can be read in full here, was put together in response to the annual human rights report produced by the UK Government, which itself included a chapter on Colombia. However, according to the Committee, Amnesty International argued that the Government report fails "accurately to reflect the seriousness of the human rights situation" in Colombia. The Committee also cited concerns by Amnesty, Saferworld and Human Rights Watch that UK military assistance continues to flow to "units implicated in serious human rights abuses, such as the High Mountain Brigades".

The report reproduces testimony given to the Committee by the UK director of Human Rights Watch, Tom Porteous, in which he argues that "The problem is that the military aid the British Government grant to Colombia is unconditional with regard to any kind of human rights improvements. We think that that sends a bad message. The military in Colombia will go on getting these military goodies without having to do anything in return with respect to human rights."

Porteous continued by saying that "the UK seems to be being saddled with a policy that even the American Government have moved beyond. After the Democrats took control of Congress last year, they froze some military aid to Colombia on human rights grounds. We think that the UK should at least get back into step with the policy of the Americans."

The reports criticises the Government for their lack of transparency around military aid to Colombia by saying that "the issue of examining the details of how UK military aid is deployed in Colombia [which the Government wishes to remain secret] is somewhat distinct from the issue of whether UK aid is being leveraged to extract the maximum human rights benefits in the country [which the Government has also refused to comment on], with the latter being the more important question."

The Foreign Affairs Committee is made up of MPs from all parties and has a remit to oversee the foreign policy of the United Kingdom.
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